Couchsurfers are just the greatest people you will ever meet. Especially the really good ones (obvious? Probably.) Jean-Marc messaged me to let me know he left his key out for me so that I could deposit my luggage. Way to save me from a day of sitting in some random park or cafe, my friend. I arrived back in London at 9:30am – two hours later than scheduled. I made it to Jean-Marc’s via the tube without trouble. His three CSers from the previous night were still there, casually preparing for their day. I opted to lazily join them for a bit rather than rush off because traveling had left me entirely fatigued and slightly ill.
Mark, whose reputation preceded him, though unrecollected by me, is a native Londoner. Neil had talked about meeting him in a message several weeks back, but somehow I didn’t connect the two. Anyways, he asked what my plans were, I replied ‘none’, and he suggested an itinerary without hesitation. We set off in no particular hurry and headed towards the World Press Exhibition via a scenic route. The exhibition is really intense – filled with pictures that are graphic, and tragic, and lovely. Difficult to handle, but almost necessary to behold. Next was a return visit to the Tate Modern, followed by a mingle with the people of Occupy London. Mark figured that if something interesting was to go down, it would happen tonight. So we could either witness some political drama, or get arrested, or whatever. No big deal. he also reckoned there was a cafe and we might be able to acquire a meal. I realized that I hadn’t eaten anything since the previous afternoon. Apparently my body was still protesting all of the bus-travel.
I was surprised by just how organized and how well equipped the protesters were. It was like a mini village complete with solar panel electricity. The people there were also really friendly. We had soup and bread, and the guys in the serving line lightly protested when Mark offered to donate a bit of money. And then proceeded to offer us fruit and chocolate. Nothing very dramatic happened, but it was a good time. By now we were meant to meet up with Jean-Marc and some others at ‘The Sun and Thirteen Cantons’. Which, proved difficult to find. But we made it. The next day was the birthday of an American lad that was with us, and so we of course had to wait up with him to celebrate his birthday at midnight. The problem is that most places were closing. We booked it across London with our party of eight to some specific destination. We did make it by midnight, but they, too were closing. Across the street some guy was beckoning us to enter their club. None of us were ecstatic about hanging out in a club, but we were either going to celebrate his birthday there or in the street. So we entered the winter-decked club with its loud club music and scantily clad people and remained there until it closed. Then, home! And sleep!
Saturday was mostly uneventful. We slept in, I bought some groceries. I talked with Jean-Marc while he did a bit of cleaning. We had a great discussion on films, which made me realize that I hadn’t seen one for over two months. Midday I left to tackle the weekend London underground in order to get to Neil’s. I didn’t have too much trouble, but I did have to take a rail replacement bus because the line that goes to his stop was shut down. Two hours later I was safely at his place. He made butternut squash curry and ‘the best chips you’ve ever had’ (completely true) and we got naan, I got a ginger beer which I had been looking forward to since leaving London. Yet another fabulous meal by Neil (rhyming unintentional and regrettable). We considered going out, but ended up watching videos from his two summers in America along with the British office. A good choice, in my opinion.
On Sunday Mark was giving a tour of London and invited me to join. I did. We were going along ‘the docklands’. Which, was greeted by something along the lines of ‘that’s not a very interesting place. In fact, that’s the least interesting place.’ by Neil when I invited him along. Anyways, after the tour I quite disagreed with him. There were eight of us by the end. Two Australians, a Russian/Latvian, a Hungarian, and two French. They were all completely lovely. I so cherish them after spending just a few hours in their company. I think I will never stop being amazed at how that can happen. They were all CSers, so we reveled in conversations about travel and anything related. And lots that was unrelated. We stopped on a beach filled with the strangest assortment of things. I gathered still more sea glass. We stopped to feed oatcakes to birds. We stopped at one of Dickens’ favorite pubs. Loads of other quiet and fascinating places filled with Mark’s narrative and our conversations. We went to a restaurant in a hydraulic energy thing and had what I was assured would be fantastic dessert. It so was. I had sticky date pudding with creme fraiche. A great choice. Then we saw pirate ships. The tour was ending at at a Pakistani restaurant, but I said my regrettable farewells before the food came because I was set to meet Neil for an open mic poetry night. One of his friends was performing there. That ended up being a good event as well. We returned home, watched Curb Your Enthusiasm, and that was my last night in London.
Monday morning I had surprisingly no issues getting to Gatwick. No problems getting on the plane – everything went really smoothly. Though it is humorous that between boarding the plane and taking off I managed to have a nap and a meal. Not sure how that worked. Arriving in Orlando was another matter. I couldn’t find my people, I didn’t have a mobile, and my American money was tucked away deep in my overstuffed backpack. Fortunately, ORL does have wi-fi. I attempted calling Kristin and Cassie on Skype, but neither answered their phones. Finally I posted a status on Facebook asking anyone to contact them for me. Also I finally reached my parents. These two decisions turned out to be quite effective. Through a roundabout method and a chain of people I made contact and finally departed the airport into the Florida heat. Welcome home!
I departed Cape with less than excitement. Not only was I leaving this gorgeous island, Ed and Duncan, the goats, and my co-Wwoofers once again – this was the end of Wwoofing. The end of an amazing experience and the end of uncomplicated settledness. Back to moving about constantly until returning to the states. I decided to take the afternoon ferry and therefore I got to care for the goats a final time as well as say a proper farewell. As the time drew near for me to leave, I sat mostly silently at that familiar kitchen table, in full trepidation. The walk down the mountain found my eyes full of tears, as did the ferry ride. But, by the time I reached Baltimore I had come to terms with all of my endings.
I briefly crossed paths with Abel and got a lift with Duncan to Skibbereen to catch my bus. In Skibb I fell into a conversation with a girl from Germany who recognized me from the ferry. She was one of the most confident people I’ve ever met. A nineteen-year-old who wants to experience life before becoming a teacher so that she has more to offer her students. Her parents didn’t really approve, but she thought that was what was right and moved to Cork and got a job. We continued our conversation on the bus, but she had chosen a seat while I was stowing my luggage and sat near the back. Have I mentioned that European roads make me ill? Cause they do. And I spent a good forty-five minutes feeling about to vomit while conversing with this girl. Finally I apologized, explained my problem, and laid down. I slept the rest of the way to Cork, where I was met by Gwenaelle at the station. I was so glad to see her. It seems like so very long ago that I had seen her, which is strange because I feel as though my time overall in Ireland has been so very short. She took me to another session where she was playing. It was really nice being able to just sit and listen to music. It was nice to have a bit of trad in my ears once more before leaving.
The next day we did some errands together and had lunch at the Quay Co-op. After Gwenaelle left for school, I gathered myself and asked about employment. They would be willing to hire me once I acquired a work permit. Which seemed like good news to me. I also asked at Bru hostel where I had stayed, and they more or less said the same thing. They recommended I go and speak to the Irish Citizens Advice Center about acquiring a work permit. I arrived there eight minutes after they closed, so I did a bit of research on my iPod. The situation seemed pretty impossible, but I decided to go back and talk to them the following morning.
Gwenaelle had a friend over and made us dinner and fantastic chocolate cake. Afterwards we worked on a costume for a party that she was going to that weekend where you have to dress up as the title of an Irish tune. Well, I particularly like costumes and I particularly like Gwenaelle, so the evening was fabulous.
Thursday I set out in the worst weather I had experienced since arriving in Ireland. I would have had romantic notions about how Ireland was sad for my departure, if it weren’t for the fact that the people I talked to agreed that working there as an American (with no so-called ‘special skills’ to add insult to injury) my hopes of working there null.
I trudged back to Gwenaelle’s in my soaking wet coat. Really? So much for being a really nice winter coat. I’m thankful that I didn’t discover this unfortunate fact until my final day at least. This was definitely not a good day on any level so far, and Gwenaelle agreed when I saw her later. She made me lunch before I left and gave me not one, but three Cadbury chocolate bars. Gwenaelle is literally one of the sweetest people I have ever met. Also, receiving unexpected chocolate is really magnificent. It is optimal anytime, but especially when you’ve had a miserable day and have thirteen hours of travel ahead of you.
I took a bus for five hours, a ferry for another five hours, and another bus for seven hours. My neck regrets this, as does my general being. The ferry was really fancy. Less like little Dun An Oir, the Cape Clear ferry, and more like a cruise ship. Despite the ‘NO LYING ON SEATS’ sign, there was a plentiful selection of reasonably comfortable person-length seats. No one minded the signs. I slept a bit, but mostly journaled and listened to music. There were a few ‘did we just hit an iceberg?’ moments, complete with deep metallic grinding and the sliding and shattering of glasses from the bar nearby. But, we made it through the night. Even customs didn’t much bother me. England was as rain-filled as Ireland.
In order to get back to Cape on the Monday ferry, I had to peace out of Dublin on Sunday evening. Which, turned out to be a tragically stressful affair. Sunday we awoke and had breakfast, washed and packed, and went with Neil and his sister Elaine for one of the nicest walks I’ve ever had. By then it was time for me to make tracks to the bus station. The bus near Neil’s decided to not show up for an uncomfortably long time, in which I asked a couple standing nearby if the bus actually ran on Sundays. As I was asking them, the bus decided to arrive (obviously). The couple immediately adopted me to insure that I made it to the Busáras station. Which I was grateful for, as I had parted ways with Christy Lu, my faithful city navigator at the bus stop. I conversed with the couple for the duration of my forty-five minute journey, and then they wished me well and instructed me to debark at the next stop. After a short walk, I made it to the bus station just before five – an hour before the Dublin – Cork bus was scheduled to leave.
I was slightly nervous because I only had my itouch in which to acquire the return portion of the Skibbereen – Dublin return ticket I had purchased online. Also, I hadn’t considered whether it would be okay to break up my trip into two days. I rather thought not. The problems I feared turned out not to be a problem at all, but I did have other issues. For instance, the fact that the ticket they gave me when I boarded the bus in Skibb four days ago was also my return ticket. And additionally I couldn’t find it. I had every other receipt I had acquired on this trip, but that specific one that I needed seemed to have packed its bags and gone. The guy at the ticket counter (who appeared to be about fourteen) had said the words ‘if you don’t have that ticket, you’ll have to buy another.’ which…I was opposed to doing. After stepping aside and thoroughly searching my bag and jacket pockets as calmly as possible, I returned to the fourteen-year-old Bus Eireann employee. I determined to be assertive, which a quality in which I am generally completely deficient. ‘So there is no way you can reprint the ticket? There is nothing I can do?’ I queried in a last, largely hopeless effort. He informed me I could go talk to ‘The Inspector’, explain my situation, and he might let me board the bus. I expressed my desperate gratitude to young ticket counter guy, and headed, hopeful again, to The Inspector. he didn’t appear to be a man that would be terribly eager about helping me. But he listened to my situation, and disappeared behind a glass door and up a flight of stairs. I waited, probably appearing pathetically forlorn. It was a few minutes, but as it was nearing half five, I was a bit worried that even if I acquired a ticket, I would miss the final bus to Cork. When The Inspector returned he nonchalantly handed me a long, thin strip of yellow paper with handwriting sprawled across the front. ‘This’ll get you to Skibbereen.’ he said.
I imagine my face expressed a reaction akin to winning a million dollars. I thanked him earnestly, and retreated to the toilet before queueing for the bus. On my way down the stairs I very nearly produced a faceload of tears. Between whether I could get to the bus station in time, and whether I could acquire my ticket okay I had filled myself with the stress of uncertainty and lack of control. It’s amazing how God works in those moments. Really Kendall, you need to be in control? Really? You can provide for yourself? And I miserably realize that I have removed my trust in him, and he says: here, let me take that. I can handle it. On the bus I realized that I felt less like ‘I got what I wanted’ (by attempting assertiveness) and more like ‘I was given what I needed’ (by just in general existing in a universe with a pretty sweet God). Thank God for his eternal patience and grace. And for Irish people and Bus Eireann. Half an hour later I boarded the bus with the comforting destination of Corcaigh in orange LED lights adorning the front.
The next day I picked up where I left off and continued southward. I arrived in Baltimore by noon and spent the afternoon collecting sea glass and re-exploring the cliffs around the beacon.
Due to the time change last week, the 5:30 ferry now sailed in darkness. Even so, I can’t sit inside on a boat. It seems like a great injustice to let all of those teal-ish swells and all of that salt air slip by unnoticed. So I took my usual spot in my usual solitude near the front. It’s funny, most people want to dance in a crowd of people with flashing lights. I’ve never found myself so compelled, but apparently nature brings out my dancing spirit. In mountain forests, and in the midst of the ocean I am wont to dance. Eh, well, you never know what you’ll learn about yourself.
I also found out that I absolutely cannot dwell permanently in a large city. I am completely glad I went to Dublin, but I was yearning to be back on Cape. My return to the sea and mountains and quiet and lack of busyness and all the rest was like coming up from the water and filling your lungs with air. I feel like I can breathe and think and relax and in general I am just really glad to be back. The new Wwoofer, Abel of Philadelphia, was here. I found out that he shares my peanut butter obsession, and instantly decided he must be awesome. This has proven to be pretty accurate.
It was easy enough to get back into life on Cape. The routine of milking and such came as a great joy to me. We sent away one of the kid goats, and that was sad. Now we have only sixteen. The day after I returned Ed left again for more Ireland improvement business. For dinner Abel and I made meat pie, and afterwards I took the goats milk curd that was unusable as cheese and made cheesecake. I had done so last week as well. Then I had made a regular version and a ginger pear version. This time I made one flavored with orange peel, cinnamon, and raisins, as well as one made with caramelized bananas and a peanut butter crust. I’m not one for being plain.
Still later, Abel asked me whether I play harmonica (no), and whether I sing (poorly). ‘So you’ll sing?’ he said. Ah, why not. He brought down his guitar and we positioned ourselves in front of the computer. Unfortunately we don’t really know the same songs. We attempted a few, and it really was fun, but ultimately we decided that it just didn’t work quite properly. Not a bad evening anyways.
I started writing about my trip to Dublin, but I suppose I haven’t written much about life on Cape in the past few weeks. There aren’t really any specific stories I can recall to share. I’ve been enjoying my time with the goats, drinking probably unhealthy amounts of tea, making lots of food (including cheesecake with fresh goats milk cheese curd), enjoying working and talking with Ed, taking walks and spending the majority of my life taking walks and conversing with Liam (and teasing him for his Canadianism). And…that’s about all.
So, Dublin. Dublin happened ever so quickly. On Thursday I awoke and said a hurried goodbye to Liam, who would not be on Cape when I returned. I was not really excited about that fact, but one thing Wwoofing has reinforced in me is to accept life as it happens and embrace even the things you don’t especially care for. With each host I had a brief time before moving on where I just wanted to stay. I wanted to keep what I had, to remain in the places and with the people I had grown to love. But moving on requires letting go. Another thing I have learned quite solidly.
The ferry departed at 9am. After that I caught three buses to arrive in Dublin at 6:30pm. Christy Lu met me at the terminal and we had a fairly epic reunion that had the potential of making even random onlookers cry. It’s weird how seeing someone that you have lived with, and spent extensive time around can be weird. But there was indeed a feeling of surreality.
We headed straight to James’s art exhibition, which was – to our great fortune – literally (Mosby approved) around the corner from the bus station. It was really great, and I’m glad I made it to Dublin in time to attend. Even Christy was impressed. Unfortunately we couldn’t stay long as we were supposed to meet up with our host. We were to stay with a friend of Neil (one of our London CS hosts, if you’ll recall). Cian and his housemate, Yusuf were another awesome two people in a still-growing list of wonderful people that I have met and stayed with. We spent the evening with them and then enthusiastically retired to sleep off our travel-induced fatigue. Yeah right. That was the plan, but…I haven’t seen Lu dear for over two months. So we forwent some precious sleep in favor of catching up.
Our first day in Dublin together was spent ‘meandering’ about, as Christy put it. We went to a few museums, hung around the Temple Bar area, which we agreed we both quite like, and we got curry chips (fries) from ‘The Oldest Chipper in Dublin’. We stopped by James’s very briefly before meeting up with Neil, whose flight arrived that evening. He took us to a few pubs where we met various friends of his. That night we stayed at his family’s house.
I met the family the next morning. Only such lovely people could be called the family of precious Neil. You know how there are just people whose family you can imagine simply by knowing the person? That’s how Neil and his family are. We had breakfast with them, then headed back to the city centre. We planned on taking the free walking tour, which is from the same group as the wonderful walking tour we experienced in London. We arrived a bit late, but decided to stick with it…until about forty-five minutes in. The tour guide was nowhere near so humorous, interesting, nor endearing as James had been. And I was feeling nauseous. And we had delicious sea salt ice cream plans. So we ducked out after Dublin Castle. We intended on returning the next day in hopes of a different tour guide, but that never happened. So we walked through Temple Bar once again, perused the market there, listened to a live band playing in the street, and found Murphy’s ice cream shop. This just so happened to be within sight of Leo Burdock’s, our old chipper friend. So we got chips to go with our sea salt ice cream. We’re pretty undeniably brilliant sometimes, and this was just such an occasion.
That evening Neil’s family was having a party for his dad’s sixtieth birthday. They graciously invited us to join them. We gladly accepted. It was a really nice party. I enjoyed all of the conversation, and the food was exceptional. Following the party we headed to Neil’s friend Conor’s house, further pubs, and more friends of Neil. This more or less marked my last night in Dublin. And it was the endish of a very nice, but decidedly very short trip.